San Angelo, Abilene, Lindale May Hold Citywide Elections on Local Abortion Ban

The activist behind the initiative says it's common for city leaders in Republican areas to avoid the proposal.
January 11, 2022
When the Lindale City Council rejected a proposal to outlaw abortion in city limits two years ago, it made headlines from Tyler to New York.

Now, Lindale citizens that support the proposed ordinance have begun collecting petitions to put it on the city ballot.

According to the Lindale city charter, voters can submit an initiative ordinance to the council if they collect signatures from at least 15% of qualified voters in the city. If the council rejects it, then the proposed ordinance goes before the voters in the next uniform election.

Four Lindale women began this petition process after the council heard the proposal again without acting on it on January 4.

The proposed ordinance would empower citizens to sue anybody besides the mother herself that performs or aids an abortion in Lindale.

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Lindale isn’t alone. On the other side of the state, citizens in San Angelo and Abilene are working through the same process. State Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) spoke in support of a similar ordinance in Abilene on Saturday.

Though both West Texas cities are large towns with mostly Republican populations, attempts to persuade passage through the city councils instead of a citywide vote have failed there as well. The activist behind the ordinance, Mark Lee Dickson, says the apparent disparity between mostly conservative populations and their city leaders on this issue is “more common than people probably realize.”

Dickson says his organization, Right to Life East Texas, waits for community members to demonstrate significant support in a city population before he considers introducing the ordinance to their council. He also looks at voting data to see if the county 

“I mean, it’s all a matter of who we have leadership-wise,” Dickson said. “So, regardless of how conservative a county is, if you elect people that don’t represent your beliefs and values, or don’t have the courage to stand and do what’s right… sometimes, it just gets into politics.”

By publishing time, the mayors of Abilene and San Angelo had not responded for comment.

The proposal previously made it onto the San Angelo City Council’s agenda, but Mayor Brenda Gunter convinced the council to reject the ordinance and plan to pass a symbolic resolution in support of the Texas Heartbeat Act at the next meeting instead. The resolution did not make it onto the next meeting’s agenda.

Dickson started the “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” initiative in 2019 when he convinced the city council of Waskom to adopt the first version of the ordinance. Former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell explored the possibility of outlawing abortion through lawsuits in a 2018 law article before it became the centerpiece of the “sanctuaries” and later the Texas Heartbeat Act.

When Lindale leaders rejected the idea in 2020, the initiative included twelve towns and was on the cusp of weathering a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Now, the next city to adopt a local abortion ban will be the 40th in Texas to join the initiative.

City leaders skeptical of the ordinance have typically expressed fear that it runs afoul of federal law. The Lubbock City Council declined to consider the ordinance after meeting with attorneys who said the ordinance would be unconstitutional. When a petition forced the council to a vote, the ordinance failed unanimously. Most members espoused personal pro-life beliefs but said the ordinance could expose the city to the threat of lawsuits.

The citizens of Lubbock later passed the ordinance in a citywide election, making it the largest “sanctuary” to date and the first one with a working Planned Parenthood in city limits.

Planned Parenthood sued the city in federal court afterward but lost.

Unlike previous versions of the ordinance, Lindale’s ordinance would have a section explicitly outlawing any aid for abortions performed outside city limits, such as offering transportation or providing referrals to an abortion facility.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.

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